Srivaishnava AhAra niyamam - Q & A

sri:
srimathE rAmAnujAya nama:
srimadh varavaramunayE nama:
sri vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:

In the original post (http://ponnadi.blogspot.in/2012/07/srivaishnava-aahaara-niyamam_28.html) relating to AhAra niyamam we observed the fundamentals in this topic. One swamy (Sri U.Ve. Sridharan) who is adiyen's Apthar prepared a questionnaire on AhAra niyamam and requested adiyen to fill in the details. adiyen thought it would be better to get the answers from a prAmANikar (authoritative person) instead of adiyen just answering myself. So, adiyen requested Sri U.Ve. Rangarajan swamy to get the answers personally from ThiruppullANi Sri U. Ve. Sundararaja iyengAr swamy (srirangavAsi now) who is a well respected authority in our sampradhAyam. swamy spent some of his valuable time and gave the answers for our queries. This article is an attempt to document those valuable questions and answers.

Words of Caution: This is not an attempt to find fault in anyone or look down upon other's food habbits. It is an effort to document what is mentioned in sAstram in this regard. Every one of us can try to adhere to the principles as much as we can.

There are certain raw materials which we are not clear about - i.e., what they really contain, how they are processed, etc. When in doubt about the raw material or the process involved, it is always better to avoid such food items.


Traditionally, foreign foods (foods that originated from outside India and foods that were produced outside India) are avoided. Most temples, mutts and ThirumALigais dont use anything other than the traditional foods.

Here are the questions we asked swAmy and his answers:

Queries on Temple prasAdham
  • Many times in the temples, some devotees (not from our community) with vessels, give prasAdham to all other devotees who pass by. Can that be accepted and consumed by us? Or should prasAdham be accepted only from the authorized people?
prasAdham should only be accepted from srivaishnavas.
  • Consider the case when we come to the temple after the prasAdha viniyOham is over. If a devotee (not from our community) gives us a bit of that prasAdham, should that be accepted?
No.
  • Can/Should we accept prasAdham from all srivaishnavas (one who had pancha samskAram) irrespective of their age, jnAnam and anushtAnam? 
No.
  • What if the prasAdham during viniyogam falls down from our hands? Is it still edible after picking it up from the temple floor?
No.
  • Is it true that the temple prasAdham (both flowers and food) that we get, can be offered to our (sAlagrama) perumAL at home?
We can do that if we know that the temple (kainkaryaparars) maintains anushtAnam. swAmy said only two divyadhEsams maintain proper anushtAnam nowadays (could not confirm which two divyadhEsams but paramapadham and ksheerAbdhi are probably the safest ones to assume).

Queries on food in general

  • What is the remedy if we have had food at a house where no AchAram has been practiced under some unavoidable circumstances?
One day upavAsam (fasting)

  • Krishnan says in gIthai that if one ‘jAmam’ passes by after making the food, it should not be consumed. Does this hold true for bakshanam’s and pickles?
bakshaNams fried in oil dont fall under this category.

  • Is it true that in srivaishnava sampradayam, the concept of ishta pandhi holds good? So can dhivasa food at any bandhu’s house be consumed?
No. We can only share/consume pithru sEsham of Athma bandhus.
  • A BhOgi should have food only twice a day as per sAstram (yOgi - one meal, bhOgi (enjoyer) - two meals, rOgi (person with disease) - three meals). Do milk, fruits and prasAdha viniyOham make a bhOjanam?
No. Since it is not complete meals, they can be consumed in addition to the two meals.
  • Is it true that on amavsya days evening food should be consumed before sunset?
No. We cannot consume food after sunset on amAvAsyai.
  • What types of food should be avoided at night?
keerai thandu(leafy vegetables), curd, etc..
  • During travels, Can We Consume Fruits that are purchased?
Yes, one can.  One has to wash it with water and then offer it to EmperumAn and then consume. 

Queries on water
  • Is there a rule that when we go to somebody’s house, we should have atleast water in their house and not come on empty stomach?
No.
  • Are the restrictions about eating only for food or also for water? The reason behind this is the story where Krishnan sends Indran to give water to Udhankar Maharishi. Udhankar refuses since Indran comes in the form of a chandalan.
Yes. There are restrictions.
  • Should water also be consumed in the morning only after a bath? (is snAnAthva bhunjItha applicable here?)
Yes. We can consume anything only after thiruvArAdhanam for our home perumAL.

Queries on milk
  • Is it correct that milk should not be consumed in day time?
No. It can be consumed.
  • Is powdered milk permissible?
Don’t know how they make.
  • Is sOya milk permissible?
Don’t know how they make. But since this is sourced generally from outside bhAratha bhUmi, this should not be consumed.

Queries on Permissible/Prohibited fruits/ vegetables /food items:


Are the following food permissible:
Vegetables
Y/N
Potato
N
Tomato
N
Beans
N
Carrot
N
Keerai types other than Agathi keerai and molai keerai?
Y (some keerai types are consumable - not all)
Cabbage
N
Caulilflower
N
Peas
N
Corn / Sweet Corn
N
Pudina
N
kovakkai
N
Brinjal (white/pink)
Pink  is Ok, No for white

Fruits
Y/N
Custard Apple
N
Papaya
N
Water Melon
N
Pineapple
N
Plum
N
Nungu
N
Apple
N
Pear
N


Food Items
Y/N
Barley
N
Oats
N
Rava
N - If broken at home, it can be consumed.
Maida (finely milled and refined wheat floor)
? process.
Javvarisi (Sago)
N
Panan kalkandu
N
aval
N - if broken at home, it can be consumed.
Pori (Puffed Rice) prepared at home
N - yes if roasted at home.
Boiled Rice
N - if prepared from scratch (i.e., boiling itself) at home, it can be consumed.
Panneer (made from milk)
N
Bajra (pearl millet)
?
Ragi (finger millet)
N
sOmbu
N
cooking soda
?
baking soda
?
cheese
N
sOya
?
white sugar
? process, traditionally only brown bulk sugar is used.
           
"?" indicates doubtful about the raw material or the process involved. When in doubt about the raw material or the process involved, it is always better to avoid such food items. 

We have listed the restricted items here. Those which are not restricted here, it is best for one to enquire and consume them. Thanks to SrI u vE bharathan swamy for additional inputs.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan


24 comments:

  1. Great and very useful compilation, Swami.

    But adiyen has one doubt: It is said No for aval but wasn't that given by Kuchelar to Lord Krishna? Kindly clarify this Swami.

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    1. aval (puffed rice), puzhangal (boiled rice), etc were prepared at home those days - so they were consumable. but nowadays, they are prepared by others (who are 99.9% avaishnavas) - thats why they are not consumable. anything raw, we can buy/get from outsiders and purify them, but anything cooked we cant accept from avaishnavas.
      adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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    2. Thank you for your reply Swami.

      Delete
  2. Adiyen swami...

    Excellent compilation..

    I have one doubt...My wife goes to her father's place on her paternal grandfather's shraardham day and consumes food there, and feeds my kids too. After returning home, she gives thenguzhal and sweet to me...am not sure about both these practices. I feel both practices are incorrect. Please help.

    Adiyen Ramanuja Dasan

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    1. dear swamy
      pithru sEsham (of srIvaishNavas) are usually consumed by their descendants - as far as adiyen heard there is nothing wrong with this.
      adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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  3. Thank you very much for the prompt clarification swami.

    I must admit that you have been doing a fabulous service of compiling all the essentials of a Srivaishnavan. Amazing kainkaryam in itself...

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    1. Its all emperumAn/AchAryan krupai and srIvaishNavas blessings.
      adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

      Delete
  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  5. dear swamy,

    thank you for the post

    Can you please clarify what foods can be consumed please? as the list is so comprehensive, litreally almost every food becomes not fit for consumption, In simple words if you could please suggest foods that can be consumed day to day also give enough nutrition to body for physical kainkaryam.

    Dasan

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    1. dear swamy
      there are quite a few food items which we can consume:

      rice, moong dhal (payaththam paruppu), thoor dhal (thuvaram paruppu), channa dhal (kadalai paruppu), udath dhal (uluththam paruppu), wheat, many other beans, nuts, etc.

      vegetables:
      - vendakkai (ladies finger), kathrikkai (brinjal), pudalangai (snake guard), pakarkai (bitter guard), pusanikkai, parangikkai (pumpkin), vazhakkai (plantain), vazhaippu (plantain flower), kotthavaraikkai, avaraikkai, senai kizhangu, sweet potato, sembu (kizhangu), keerai (green leaves), etc.

      fruits:
      banana, guava, mango, pineapple, pomogranite, jackfruit, apple, etc.

      milk, coconut water, etc.

      these provide sufficient nutrition.

      main criteria is materials that are native to bhAratha dhEsam and grown here. for the ones who are outside bhAratha dhEsam, they have to be practical and choosing what they can eat based on availability.

      ofcourse, subsequently such allowed materials should be prepared and offered to emperuman/azhwars/acharyas before consuming.
      adiyen sarathy ramaunja dasan

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    2. Dear Swamy, foods like apple, pineapple and brinjal are in the list of prohibited items above, and here you are saying they're allowed. Could you confirm if they're allowed? Also, even brinjal contains nicotine just like potatoes and tomatoes. So, adiyen thinks it is rajasic/tamasic. Can brinjal still be taken?

      Delete
    3. dear swamy
      sorry for the confusion.
      there are some disagreements on some food items among scholars.
      for example - in southern parts of tamilnadu, white brinjal is used, while in the northern parts, pink brinjal is used by vaidhikas.
      similarly with fruits, some scholars accept apple, pineapple etc and others don't.
      as said before, when in doubt, it is better to avoid that food item.
      adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

      Delete
  6. Adiyen Ramanuja Dasan,

    Swamy adiyen born in Malaysia ( Not Baratha Desam ) and is it the fruits or foods grown in adiyens country is acceptable to offer to emperuman and adiyen took the prasatham??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Considering your current situation, you may not have much choice. Whatever you offer, atleast ensure that they are sAthvika AhArams and consume only such prasAdham which is offered to emperumAn.
      adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

      Delete
  7. Swami, adiyen ramanuja dasan. Can we offer ghee with meal ? What is anna sudhi means ?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Yes - with plain rice, we should add ghee before offering.
    adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

    ReplyDelete
  9. i don't understand why these are given nos because they are part of the traditional foods system.

    bottle gourd, ridge gourd, ivy gourd/kovakai, ragi, varagu, pannai maram sugar, nungu, fennel, lotus stem, drumstick, sirukeerai, pasala keerai (purslane) there is malabar spinach which is also pasala keerai i think, mulangi (radish)

    Maybe there are certain varieties of bottle gourd not to be eaten is what he means or no bottle gourd at all? I'm not understanding this because these seem like traditional vegetables, except maybe the radish.

    purandara dasa praised ragi so i was surprised to see that not accepted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. many of these vegetables, food items are not part of vaidhika-sAthvika food system - though they may be grown locally and consumed by some people, they are not considered as sAthvika foods - for example - anything related to palm tree (panai maram) is generally avoided in vaidhika-sAthvika food system. Similarly drumstick is well known to be stimulant for sensual desires. keerais (green leaves) are generally ok - but pudhina and few other types are not consumed. Our AchAryas have set a path for us by using some food items and avoiding some - we can easily observe this by seeing what vegetables and food items are used in temples (surely white crystal sugar and few other vegetables have made entry into temples in recent past - but those are easily identifiable as recent additions by learned persons).
      adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

      Delete
  10. perhaps ahara niyamam was directed as a way of eating suitable for males.

    however for female health it might be different, especially females to be having a child. i think some of the foods listed above not to be eaten are not rajasic, but perhaps more suitable for a female's needs. like drumstick and panai maram for my understanding is for female health and growing child health. the sap from panai maram was once given regularly to growing children. it was never fermented but given before the fermentation. in that stage it is good. panai maram sugar was given to sooth cough sold i don't see it being rajasic in this sense. it is actually acting as a purifier and soother and that seems to be a saatvik quality.
    drumstick leaves are given to girls and growing children for calcium not for stimulating sensual desire. as for the drumstick pods i'm not sure why it is a requirement for sambar but i do notice its never to be eaten too much only in very tiny amounts. perhaps in tiny amounts its ok. i think for mother's milk which is the basis of human life drumstick leaves were given for females to produce such milk.

    i think a lot of religious text were written and directed towards grown males perhaps out of that development or growing child stage, however i think for females there were texts more written and directed towards females and thus more suitable for female and growing children's needs.





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  11. in addition to what i wrote, i think ahara niyamam is a general guideline however there are exceptions to those of various geographies, caste (professional choice), gunam, conditions....

    ultimately one needs to eat according to their own personal needs, condition, character/nature (gunam). perhaps if we eat more saatvik foods we get better clarity as to what our gunam is and from that point can eat according to that afterwards. after that point perhaps ragi is okay like for a growing girl or child because we got clarity on how to eat according to our individual needs (not passions or un needed desires)

    perhaps it was direct more towards a very specific group of people who were to chose a very specific profession, hence a way of eating specific to that profession's needs and situation?

    exactly how would you transalte the term ahara niyamam ?

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  12. The one thing that surprised me is that sesame or anything cooked in sesame is not to be taken at night. Why?

    Same for curd and keerai.

    It would help if you had a list of pathyiams and apathiyams dos and don'ts in this blog similar to this that could be applicable to all people, and to explain why the reasoning behind it. Sometimes if it is listed we don't understand but if you explain the reasoning behind it , that would help like
    why curd and keerai is not good at night? It would help follow it better.

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  13. i have noticed that even though some of the vegetables listed above might be considered not saatvik there were things done to balance it and perhaps that can make it ok for eating. like bottle gourd is often taken in buttermilk perhaps the buttermilk acts as a cooler or balancer? like if they are to be taken it has to be taken a certain way so that it is balanced and not overwhelms anyone? but on its own it can be a problem.

    nungu is a body cooler so i'm surprised that is considered a no, maybe it too high in sugar content. perhaps if nungu is taken with milk as a payasam its okay because the milk balances it?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Maybe the list is similar to how we offer flowers.
    Certain flowers are meant for certain deities.
    Perhaps certain foods are meant for certain deities, yet that doesn't mean
    people shouldn't consume them, this list is meant for what is suitable to be offered
    as prasadam to Vishnu specifically and then to be consumed by his devotee? It's not a list meant for day to day home cooking at eating?

    Usually when prasadam is offered most of the requirements are met,
    I have never seen drumstick, bottle gourd, ridge gourd, or ivy gourd etc. offered as prasadam. Yet for day to day eating for a regular person its ok. Its used in sambar all the time. Just very few pieces.

    I was surprised Custard Apple isn't allowed because that is known as Sitaphal given some association with Sita unless that is a misunderstanding and that fruit is known to be a body coolant. Perhaps like Tulasi which some say is only offered to Vishnu only, like that Sitaphal is not offered to Vishnu but could be offered to Devi?

    Or the situation is similar to how arali is offered arali isn't offered to Lakshmi yet to Durga its okay. It doesn't mean arali is not good its just arali is meant for specific deities. So perhaps this list of foods was written with this sort of thinking in mind.

    The problem I see with prasadam is that despite all these restrictions, white sugar is the number one sweetener or sulfured jaggery not made properly is the number one sweetener for prasadam. I think this is problematic and some education on what the correct sugar is should be explained in detail. The other problem is polished rice, I think this is also very problematic and what the correct rice be should be explained in detail as well. The third problem is the type of salt and oil used in prasadam because this is also not correct as often they are refined along with the refined sugar and refined rice used. These are directly affecting the health of the entire society.

    Ghee once a pure substance is now not so given how cow is treated. So obtaining the pure correctly obtained dairy products is also one to be explained in detail unless we could be vegan somehow to avoid obtaining anything from the animal to leave it at peace....perhaps using more coconut instead....





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    1. This document is a general guideline specifically meant for SrIvaishNavas who are trying to pursue a sAthvika eating style based on pUrvAchAryas life/instructions.

      Vegetarian balanced diet of sAthvika food items which is first offered to bhagavAn is the main essence. All concerns about animal life, compassion, environmental well-being etc are naturally addressed in such diet which was followed by our pUrvAchAryas.

      There may be slight variations depending on place/time - one can consult one's own AchArya to have more clarity when in doubt.

      adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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